Many of us are starting to plan for the 2019.
I have made numerous lists, mindmaps, and collections of ideas as to what I am obligated to deliver, what I’d like to deliver, and what I can deliver.
At some point, looking at my lists, I was starting to despair.
I started questioning as to which of my activities were actually delivering value and which were some of those things that I should just step away from.
My problem is that those things on my list are all things that I want to commit to and that I believe can deliver value.
Yet, in a world where our resources are limited and we only have certain blocks of time we can use, choices need to be made what is prioritised.
Luckily I had chance to catch up with Dave Stachowiak who, as always, gave me more insights into what strategic leverage could look like.
Work harder but less
In a recent blog, Morten Hansen lays out the strategy for successful 2019: do less but obsess.
This means “ruthless prioritisation” as to where you can achieve the most and deliver the most value:
His three tips are to:
1) Pursue the extreme few: each month, identify the most important thing you need to do and focus on that. This gives you an idea of monthly progress.
2) Cut wasteful meeting time, and then obsess: cut all meetings in half because in order to really do great work, you need more time to focus on your priorities. Reduce both the length of the meeting by half and the number of people attending.
3) Spend your time dividend in 2019: if you spend your time wisely, you will also discover how that frees more time for example to spend with family.
As Morten notes, “people who mastered “do less, then obsess” also had a better work-life balance. They scored much lower on the statement, “the demands of my work interfere with my family and personal time.”
This is what most of us want, right?
To be able to really do those things in life we value the most, including also spending time with our loved ones, and feeling that we are excelling both at home and at work.
But what if you have a range of activities that you still want to accomplish?
What would be a smarter way of doing those rather than reach a burnout?
Obsess and leverage
I would tweak this principle a bit and say that once you have identified those things you want to be involved in (and/or have to be), you definitely should obsess but focus on leverage.
Leverage in this context means to try to hit two birds (or more) with one stone.
Which of your activities and tasks are interlinked?
How can you leverage one outcome or result in another area where you need to do something?
I am not talking here about copypasting text from one document to another (and in academia, this is a no-no anyway) but being and becoming more strategic how each of our efforts has potential to contribute to something else.
For example, when writing a blog, think about where else you could post the blog or when you have written an opinion piece, which multiple outlets could be interested in it?
When you attend meetings and conferences, which questions the audience or your peers seem to be asking?
How can you leverage that information for example in a blog post or develop the idea further?
If you have published a journal paper, could you also write a blog about it, give an interview, or even arrange to give a talk/seminar at the university or a local community organisation?
Or leverage that particular publication as part of your grant writing process?
Great leaders do this really well as they know that they need to prioritise and leverage as much actions as they can within time constraints.
So the idea of leverage has given me more ideas for how I can plan my 2019.
I am actually developing a 3-year plan after re-listening to the Coaching for Leaders podcast episode on How to create a vivid vision (episode 345).
It is still of utmost importance to have priorities and know your goals so that you can make choices in which new opportunities you want to participate in, and which ones you need to let go.
But if you start using the leveraging mindset, you can reduce also the hours you put in the tasks ahead of you, and become more mindful as to how each activity links with others.
And alas, here we come to the climate adaptation part…
As I mentioned in the previous blog, one of the core issues in climate adaptation is its measurement and tracking of progress.
Recently there have been new calls to better understand how climate adaptation delivers benefits that are also relevant for sustainable development and disaster risk reduction; the core question being how can climate adaptation leverage further benefits.
The idea of multiple benefits and leveraging adaptation in a manner that enables more robust actions in other fields of policy and practice sits now at the core of many of these discussions.
But the real trick is knowing how to do this, and which actions really link with each other.
The term “leverage” is already recognised in the climate change literature.
For example, the Climate Investment Funds released a report on how “leverage” can be assessed in the climate finance space.
In this context, leverage is about being able to secure more funding, either from public or private actors, due to the existing climate finance for a particular project or sectoral activity.
In health and climate change research, leverage is seen as “co-benefits” from programs and actions: for example in urban environments the majority of social and environmental problems are interlinked.
This means that actions in one sector could be used to leverage benefits in other sectors simultaneously: public health outcomes could be achieved with sustainable climate-friendly actions in transport or energy sectors.
And when it comes to climate adaptation, developing and providing more traceable mechanisms for adaptation benefits (rather than saying it’s all win-win), will become increasingly important.
In many ways, concepts like leverage, synergies, co-benefits, mutual benefits all relate to the idea of doing less with more.
As we gear in for the 2019, my hope is that we can see more of this kind of a mindset where we really pay attention how to leverage our time, energy and ideas strategically.
Obsess and leverage…